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Heyward-Bey's speed makes Terps dangerous

September 18, 2008|By Bob Parasiliti

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Darius Heyward-Bey hears the question all the time.

"Just how fast are you?"

It all goes with his transformation from high school track star to star receiver and one of the more noticeable pass catchers in college football for the University of Maryland.

The description goes like an old joke.

How fast is Heyward-Bey? He's so fast, sometimes he has to wait to catch up to himself.

"Sometimes I run too fast for myself," Heyward-Bey said during Tuesday's weekly media conference. "I go full speed at all times. The speed is what people notice. I run as hard as I can on every play."

And therein lies why Heyward-Bey is so important to Maryland. The junior's speed, and his consistent use of it, sets up the Terrapins in so many ways.

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"I've worked real hard to play football and to get where I'm at today," he said. "I'm the type of guy who hates to lose. My mindset is to get it done and that takes precedence over everything."

If he catches a pass, Heyward-Bey is a threat to go all the way for a touchdown. If he runs a pattern, he becomes a decoy that defenses watch, thus opening things up for other pass catchers.

Just running hard is a talent that coach Ralph Friedgen appreciates.

"I see him improve every week," Friedgen said. "What I see him doing that he didn't do last year is that he is running his routes and coming out of his cuts at full speed. He is catching the ball better in games than he is in practice ... and that's a good thing."

Maryland has changed its offense to more of a West Coast style, which promotes a short passing game. The change was partially made to get the ball in Heyward-Bey's hands more often for more chances to use that speed.

He caught two passes for 59 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter, in last Saturday's 35-27 win over California. He's now seventh in Maryland's career records with 1,699 yards receiving, tied for seventh in touchdown catches with 10 and eighth in receptions with 105.

The new offense redefines Heyward-Bey's speed. In the old set, Heyward-Bey would run longer routes, looking to make the game-breaking catch. Now, in the West Coast set, Maryland tries to get the ball in quick-hitting routes so he can use his speed to get past defenders.

"I want to get at least a first down, but then I want to score," he said.

Maryland showed a new comfort zone in its offense against California. The Terps were seemingly feeling their way through their first two games while trying to adjust to the new set. Last Saturday, quarterback Chris Turner showed efficiency in the offense right from the first snap. The precision kept California unnerved defensively.

"It's a tough offense to pick up," Heyward-Bey said. "It isn't that tough for me though. All I have to do is run my route and turn around to see if the ball is there for me to catch."

And then run real fast.

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